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Laira Emplacement, immediately south west of Laira Battery

A Scheduled Monument in Efford and Lipson, Plymouth

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Latitude: 50.3869 / 50°23'12"N

Longitude: -4.0933 / 4°5'35"W

OS Eastings: 251284.036438

OS Northings: 56201.765257

OS Grid: SX512562

Mapcode National: GBR NY.T4F5

Mapcode Global: FRA 2890.YYW

Entry Name: Laira Emplacement, immediately south west of Laira Battery

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020686

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33052

County: Plymouth

Electoral Ward/Division: Efford and Lipson

Built-Up Area: Plymouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


The monument includes a mid-19th century gun battery known as Laira
Emplacement which survives in the form of earthworks and brick-built
expense magazines. It formed part of the north east land defences of
Plymouth which encircled the Plymouth harbourage and were intended to
protect it from land attack in the event of invasion. The emplacement is
sited on a spur overlooking both the Plym valley and the rear of the
associated and contemporary Laira Battery, the subject of a separate
Fears of a French invasion of Britain in the middle years of the 19th
century led to the formation of a Royal Commission in 1859 to consider the
defences of the United Kingdom. The Royal Commission's recommendations for
Plymouth were acted upon by Major W F D Jervois and resulted in the
completion, by 1872, of six new coast batteries and a ring of 18 land
forts and batteries based on three principal forts at Staddon, and
Crownhill on the Devon side of the harbour and Tregantle on the Cornish
side. The land forts and batteries were linked by a system of military
roads protected from the likely direction of attack by earth traverses and
The earthwork battery of Laira Emplacement was designed in 1869 to mount
six guns, two to bear on the right flank of Laira Battery and four on the
Laira River and the opposite riverbank at Saltram; it was connected to
Laira Battery and other parts of the defences by a purpose-built and
defended military road. Access to the battery was via a spur of the
military road set into a cutting and protected by an embankment to the
south east. The battery has an earth rampart gun emplacement, part of
which faces south towards the River Laira, and part of which faces east
towards Laira Battery; both sections of this earthwork have brick-built
expense magazines buried within the rampart with entrances at the rear.
The southern magazine has been blocked in modern times but the eastern
magazine is open and the original chamber is visible to full height and
with part of its flagstone floor surviving. The area to the front of the
rampart was landscaped at the time of construction to form a glacis (a
long sloping bank which would expose any attackers to prolonged fire).
By 1885 none of the proposed 64 pounder rifled muzzle loading guns had
been mounted, but by 1893 four 8 inch howitzers were put into place. The
precise date of abandonment by the then War Department is not known but
the site was released by the Ministry of Defence in 1961 at the same time
as Laira Battery.

All modern fencing and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Royal Commission fortifications are a group of related sites established
in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United
Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the
strengthening of the French Navy.
These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence programme since
the initiative of Henry VIII in 1539-40. The programme built upon the
defensive works already begun at Plymouth and elsewhere and recommended the
improvement of existing fortifications as well as the construction of new
There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due
wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well defined
group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions.
Whether reused or not during the 20th century, they are the most visible core
of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as
`Palmerston's follies'. All examples are considered of national importance.

The Laira Emplacement survives as a nearly complete example of an unaltered
earthwork battery gun emplacement of Royal Commission date which retains
components such as its military access road, defensive embankment, magazines,
and rampart and glacis, all in an excellent state of preservation.
Laira Emplacement formed an integral part of the planned and coherent
defensive position known as the Efford-Laira position. This position in turn
formed a key part of the wider defensive system for the naval dockyard at
Plymouth, a system which, by virtue of its grand scale and sheer strength,
indicated the extent to which Britain would go to protect its naval interests.
The monument survives therefore as a little-changed visual reminder of
Victorian military power and thinking which led to the construction of a
massive defensive system around the city of Plymouth.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 191

Source: Historic England

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